This page will serve as a Glossary for all the many confusing Sanskrit words and terms out there. It is mainly for Jyotish students, but even if a word is not closely related to Jyotish, I may include it here if it is an especially important word for the study of the Vedas and Vedangas. This will be an ongoing work in progress, and if you would like to submit words and terms, feel free to do so by leaving a comment at the bottom of this page…even just fun tidbits about a word or the etymology of a word, please do share. I study the basics of Sanskrit but am by no means a Scholar. If something is wrong, please let me know, but we must remember that Sanskrit words have more than one meaning and are used variously depending on the context, and somewhat loosely at times. I will not list every possible meaning of a word, just what I think is relevant to Jyotish. Many of the words that I will be listing here will be just those that do not have any clear English counterpart whatsoever, thus the need for an easy to find translation.
Many of these definitions can also be found on this website: Spoken Sanskrit
In alphabetical order:
Ahamkara- the “I-maker”. In other words, the ego. The thing that makes us think “I”, “Me”, “Mine”.
Amsa- A fraction of a rashi. A portion or division within a sign. For example the saptamsa chart is the chart made from dividing each sign up by 7 (sapt-“seven”) equal parts and creating a new chart from that. The navamsa chart is based on a chart made from dividing each sign up 9 (nav-“nine”) times.
Atma- Soul. Self. The deepest unchanging aspect of one’s Self. (Capital S represents the unchanging Self, not the changeable ego that we think of as our self.)
Atmakaraka- Soul producer. Soul maker. Significator of Self.
Avastha- “condition”, or a “state” of a planet. The avasthas of a planet show the states that the planet is in and can show good and bad karmas connected to a planet.
Aya- “gain” often can refer to the eleventh house, the house of gains.
Bhava- “the existing” It is the word for a house cusp in the Sanskrit texts. Similarly, Bhãvah is a word for Vishnu/Shiva, and means “The absolute existence”. “Being” “state” are other definitions.
Chandra- A name for the Moon in Vedic Astrology.
Cara- Movable. The word for the movable rashis, Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn. The root is the same as “acharya”, one of the words for a teacher. Cara means to move or go. Acharya refers to going towards the goal, hence someone who is walking the walk and not just talking it, which qualifies them to teach. You may also hear the word “carakaraka”. This refers to the changeable karakas that are based on the degrees of planets, such as Atmakaraka, Darakaraka, etc.
Deepta – “radiant” – A planet in its state of exaltation, is considered to be radiant. This planet will express in very high ways and often have a very “radiant” quality that is noticeable about a person.
Deeptamsa – Deepta is explained above, and “amsa” means “division”. Therefore it is the “division of radiance” of a planet. This is the same thing as the “Orb of influence” in Western Astrology. It is the space within which an aspect is truly being felt. Each planet was given different deeptamsas such as 15 degrees for the Sun, and 9 for Saturn and these can be used within a Prashna context very well. They are explained in the Prashna Tantra text of Neelakantha. What is very interesting is that William Lilly gave the same exact degrees of each planets Orb in his 1647 book Christian Astrology. Perhaps more evidence of the unity underlying the various traditions.
Graha- “grasper” “seizer” “thing that takes hold of you”. The sanskrit term for a planet. In vedic astrology it is never a planet we are talking about, it is a graha. This is why Rahu and Ketu are still considered grahas, even though they are not physical points in space. But the grab hold of our consciousness in the very same way. This word is also the origin of the english words: grab, gravity, grasp, gratify, gratitude.
Ishta- “desired” or “desirable”. A point scale measurement of how much of the desirable good effects a planet can bring forth, particularly with regards to judgement of yogas. The same yoga can be formed for a rising sign for a whole two hour period, but at certain times within that two hour period it will be a stronger or weaker yoga, due to the varying ishta score given at any moment. This is one of a number of reasons why many children may be born at the same 2 hour time period as a powerful leader, but dont also become powerful leaders, at least to the same extent.
Janma- birth, or born. So this word is common when used in reference to a birth chart. From the root jan- “be born”. Jayate means to “be generated”. (We can also see that this is the origin of the words “generate” and “genesis”.)
Jyotish- The word in Sanskrit for Astrology and its study, both astronomical and astrological, because from the standpoint of Veda they are the same. The root “jyoti” means “light” or “brightness”. “ish” means God, the Divine. (Like how Ishvara is the word for God in the Yoga Sutras) So “Jyotish” means the “light of God”, AKA astrology.
Karaka- Producer. Significator. Maker. The thing that makes something. All the planets are considered to be karakas or significators of things in the world. Jupiter is the karaka of children, and so if we want to see if someone will have children, we want to assess Jupiter in the chart as the signifier of children.
Kashta- “ill” This is the opposite of Ishta. A point measurement of the undesirable, ill effects that a graha can produce. Ishta and Kashta are not to be used independently but along with other factors that Parashara gives for assessing the strength of a yoga.
Lagna- “to touch” the word implies the point where the heavens touch the earth. This is where we read the chart from normally and is the same as the “ascendant” or “rising sign” in western astrology.
Nimitta- निमित्त “Omen” or a “cause”. The Sanskrit word for an omen.
Pada- “foot” Also a name for a part of the chart that represents what one comes to “stand on”, we could say, more and more as time goes on. There is also the “Upapada” which is the secondary pada and also important to examine for certain things. Upa means “secondary”, among other meanings.
Rasi- “arc” “a quantity” “volume” It is the word for a zodiac sign, and implies a 30 degree arc. In Vedic mathematics, they even use the term rasi to mean a 30 degree segment. So if they are saying to make an arc of 44 degrees, they could say to make one of 1 rasi plus 14 degrees.
Sam- “together”, “with”, “completely”; “absolutely”. This word comes before other words often, such as “samjaya”, “samskrita”.
Samah- This is one of the names of Vishnu given in the Vishnu Sahashranama Text (The Thousand Names of Lord Vishnu). According to the text this means “equal”, “balanced”. But “Sa” means “with” in Sanskrit, and “Ma” means “Laxmi” as well. So together the word that means “equal” also means “with Laxmi”. There is a lot to appreciate here for us astrologers, as Laxmi is like Venus, the planet that rules the sign of balancing scales (Libra). Venus rules balance and harmony.
Shastra- The name for a scientific text or treatise on a subject. Jyotish foundational texts are often referred to as “Jyotish Shastra”.
Surya- Name for the Sun, as a Graha or as a Diety.
Swa or Sva- Self. The capital S indicates the real Self, not the changeable ego mind that we normally identify with. Thus a “Swami” is one who is focused on realizing the true Self, which is God.
Svabhava- your innate nature, which is the basis of your paradigms in life. It is said that Saturn, the planet of our most difficult life lessons, can no longer affect us once we have completely conquered our “svabhava”. Another way to say it is that once one is free from psychological complexes and issues caused by over-identification with the separate sense of self, one cannot be seriously bothered by much of anything that happens to them in life.
Svamsha- “Self-division”. The sign that your Atmakaraka falls in the Navamsha chart is called the “Svamsha” as it is the division of the Navamsha that the planet that represents your deepest self is falling in. This is one of the most important signs of an individual’s path in life.
Trishodaya- A term that refers to the 3rd, 6th, and 11th houses. One can remember this if they break down the word, into Tri-shod-aya. Tri means three in Sanskrit. Shod means six. Aya means “gain” and refers to the eleventh house, the house of “gains”. These houses are all considered to be “yoga breakers” in the context of yoga formations and their evaluations.
Tvam – “you”
Upa- “next to”, “secondary”, “in the direction of”, “subsidiary”. There are “upagrahas”, secondary grahas such as gulika, mandi, etc. There is also the “upapada”, a secondary pada to examine along with the pada.
Upapada- The “secondary” pada. A very important part of the chart to examine, just like the pada.
Upaya- “method” An astrological remedy, a way to work with an issue or karma
Vakra- “crooked” A name for Mars, as well as a name for when a planet goes retrograde (the case then changes to Vakri, I believe, but someone may correct me). This is very interesting, and (as was first pointed out to my knowledge in the book Light On Life by Robert Svoboda and Hart de Fouw) Mars has a more crooked appearing path that he takes through the heavens. He will go retrograde in more irregular and longer patterns than the rest of the planets. He normally spends only 2 months in a sign, but when he goes retrograde he can spend 8 months in a sign! And if you map this out astronomically Mars will be making a very “crooked” line of orbit, actually. Interestingly enough, Mars will also have a tendency to make the part of your body that he sits in or rules more crooked than usual. For example, Mars in the 2nd house can give one more crooked teeth, or a more crooked broken looking nose, as the 2nd house rules the teeth and face.
Vara- Day. Each planet rules a day, or “vara”. The most obvious one may be Sunday, but each planet rules a day of the week. (Monday-Moon, Tuesday-Mars, Wednesday-Mercury, Thursday-Jupiter, Friday-Venus, Saturday-Saturn) This was actually the case in almost every ancient culture! It is a fascinating thing that so many civilizations had a seven-day week and named them after the planets. There is very old evidence of this in both Indian and Northern European cultures. From the root ‘vart’-turn, as each planet was thought to take their turn at ruling a day out of the week in ancient times.
Varga- A “set” or “division”. A “divisional chart” is the common english translation. There are 16 divisional charts, or vargas that are commonly used in vedic astrology, with the rashi chart being only 1 of these. The rashi chart is the 1st varga. The birth chart can be divided into many other charts by mathematically dividing the chart up by 36 instead of 12, for example in the drekkana chart. The navamsa is made by dividing the chart up into 108 sections.
Veda- True Knowledge. That which is real. Not intellectual information but Self-revealed knowledge.The ultimate aim of life is to know the Veda.
Vi- “divided” “apart” “different”. This prefix comes in front of many sanskrit words.
Vidya- Knowledge. It is related to “Veda”. (Note: V and W sounds were somewhat interchangeable in the older tongues it seems, such as in Sanskrit and other Eastern European languages. So Vidya could have sounded like Widya often, and this is said to be the etymological origin of the english words “wit” and “wisdom”.)
Vipareet- “reverse”. There are certain specific yogas called “Vipareet” Yogas wherein a normally troublesome factor in the horoscope is reversed and turned into a positive thing.